Radiant Vermin is a 90 minute comic satire that touches on themes of housing, consumerism and basic morals; who knew polite parents-to-be could get this dark!
The two protagonists Jill (Gemma Whelan) and Ollie (Sean Machael Verey) are a young couple stuck in a bad neighbourhood with little hope of moving out. They are surrounded by temptation as interior design magazines and Selfridges’ show homes are thrown in their path, tantalising them with what they can covet but never own… enter Miss Dee (Amanda Daniels).
It is aptly and topically relevant to London, a city obsessively gentrifying any area still clinging on to a mirage of affordability as outrageously priced flats designed to be bought and not lived in spring up left right and centre. London teases us with construction sites plastered with images alike to Sim City with the cheat code activated. How far could this level of enticement and rejection push the average Joe? Miss Dee’s knowing smile says very far indeed!
Without spoiling the tidy story arc that writer Philip Ridley has constructed, I am amazed to admit that, despite some glaringly obvious moral defects, our leading couple are just plain likeable (but not likeable enough for me to sign a contract – never fear fellow audience members!). I put it down to pure acting trickery on Whelan and Verey’s part, and take my hat off to the deftness in which they handled their roles. This post-show dilemma is also testament to the triple threat combination of excellent acting, writing and directing. The script is quite brilliant with some knock-out one liners and lovely little self-aware nods; but what really makes the writing special is the sheer fantastical lengths Ridley went to get his point across. Radiant Vermin is a nice idea about an expecting couple who need a better home for their baby, which has then been dipped in the absurd pot, turned inside out for inspection and then thrown a couple of ideological curve balls for good measure.
Director David Mercatali had a lot of solid stuff to work with considering the above, and he has opted to push the play to its limits – quite literally during a wonderful party scene of Olympic-worthy hardcore mutli-rolling. The elements of mime, audience interaction, even sugar-coated evil, have been tackled whole-heartedly and with complete conviction. From a bare white set with primary coloured characters, to the movie-quick scene changes, this was not an easy undertaking but the result was clear, concise and very entertaining. This was a truly earnest production and definitely worth seeing.
Radiant Vermin is playing at Soho Theatre until 12 April. For more information and tickets, see the Soho Theatre website.